After Crashes, Tougher Rules Loom for Commuter Airlines

THE crash on Tuesday of an American Eagle commuter plane in North Carolina is the latest in a series of US air disasters that have prompted federal officials to propose tougher rules for smaller carriers.

Commuter airlines are a fast-growing portion of the travel business, carrying more than 50 million passengers last year. Most operate smaller planes carrying a maximum of 30 passengers, which face less-stringent government rules than larger aircraft.

Prompted by an October crash that killed 68 people in Indiana, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week proposed new rules requiring commuter airlines to meet the tougher safety standards that already apply to carriers flying big jetliners. Icy conditions have played a role in three recent crashes of the British-built Jetstream Super 31 involved in Tuesday's crash. Weather and pilot fatigue are listed as key concerns associated with commuter flights.

FAA Administrator David Hinson said that while there had been a series of crashes this year, commuters were set to mark their safest year ever, statistically.

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